Tuesday, September 25, 2007


I've been busy with work, thus haven't had a chance to sit and finish wrapping up a consideration of Antonioni's (truly great, moronically reviled) The Dangerous Thread of Things. But, gandering's good, and so I'd like to keep this site stoked with small alms (burning hosts?) throughout the periods when duty calls ("there are only copy-duties," comme dit si bien Godard) and I'm awriggle in the pincers of projects. These small excursions we'll call (by silent consensus) "ENTR'ACTE" — because "Intermission" doesn't have quite the same connotative punch, dig, and "Intermission," anyway, kind of twinkles like an usher's keychain. (Though, to be frank, it's a Blur song dear and near to my heart... not only literally, say, from sloganeering via T-shirt: T-shirt whose armpit-seams go solidified by the crust of ten-years' anti-perspiring...)

Today's diversion: a video-clip from The Master, Gainsbourg, lip-synching one of my favorite songs of his (although it's the same as choosing "favorite" songs by The Beatles or Radiohead or Dylan), the then-current "Des laids des laids" ("Of the Ugly, the Ugly") on a French chat-show in 1979. Keen movie-watchers (and, yes, Godard fans) will note Jacques Villeret at the beginning and the end. The track is the fourth on the LP Aux armes et caetera (To Arms, et cetera), which might be Gainsbourg's single greatest work (out of exclusively great work and a practically consistent string of masterpieces throughout the entire 1970s — and that includes Vu de l'extérieur [Seen from the Outside] and Rock Around the Bunker, which has the virtue of being not only "his The Day the Clown Cried" but also one of the most moving records ever recorded). Without further ado —

— ...well, except for, first, a complete English translation (my own) of the lyrics. (FYI: In the first two lines, SG puts a twist on a remark he himself made in an interview televised 10 or 12 years prior to this song.) So, the master-class begins — "lyric-writing" in its pinnacle state:

"When I'm told I'm disgusting-looking, / I chuckle softly, so as not to wake you up. / You're my little Marilyn, / And I'm your Miller. / Wha — ? No, not Arthur — I'm talking about Henry — / The specialist in hardcore. // The hidden beauty / Of the ugly, the ugly / Shows up / Right away, away. // Same old song, same old reggae for my mutt, / The one everyone finds so hideous. / Poor doggie, I'm the one who's doing the drinking / And he's the one dead of cirrhosis. / Maybe this was through osmosis, / So much so that he'd been lapping up my words... // The hidden beauty / Of the ugly, the ugly / Shows up / Right away, away. // In the end, you have to make do with having / A filthy mouth, though there's nothing you can do about it. / Besides, we creep them out. / I'm sure God grants us a little bit of his mercy, // Since the hidden beauty / Of the ugly, the ugly / Shows up / Right away, away..."

UPDATE 11/07: The video that was embedded below has been removed from YouTube... if a new file goes up at some point, I'll embed the new clip...

Serge Gainsbourg mimes "Des laids des laids" (1979) —

1 comment:

  1. I'm in full agreement on your Gainsbourg-worship, and that Aux armes et caetera is probably his masterwork. I love Serge's puns on false cognates and homonyms (here, the pun on 'the laid,' as in, 'one who gets laid;' see also: 'Un zest de citron'). His reimagining of context in the title track of Aux armes et caetera is also genius.


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